14 December 2020 |

Data show families with children struggling through pandemic

Kansas Action for Chlidren
Dec. 14, 2020

Kansas children and families face broad challenges to basic security and stability, according to Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis.

This KIDS COUNT® report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work and mental health. The Foundation finds that the concurrent health and economic crises are exacerbating trends that show vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs.

Kansas data are broadly in line with the national survey results, showing that many families with children are struggling in these difficult times.

“It’s heartbreaking to learn how many Kansas families are going hungry and can’t get enough food, let alone nutritious foods,” said John Wilson, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, a member of the KIDS COUNT network. “Children can’t thrive if they can’t eat, don’t have a safe place to live and aren’t able to go to the doctor. The fact that so many Kansas families are hurting right now shows how important it is for officials to take swift action.”

By measuring food security, the ability to make rent or mortgage payments, health insurance status and mental health concerns, the Casey Foundation identified four pain points for children and families that require immediate action. The percentage of Kansas families with children who have experienced challenges as measured by these four indicators are listed below:

  • FOOD SECURITY: 15% said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat.
  • HOUSING STABILITY: 16% had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time.
  • AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: 14% did not have health insurance.
  • MENTAL HEALTH: 19% felt down, depressed or hopeless.

“America’s children are in crisis,” said Annie E. Casey Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hamilton. “All across the country, families with children are struggling to overcome an unprecedented convergence of emergencies. We need immediate and decisive action from policymakers that prioritizes equitable solutions to help families survive this catastrophe.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers and child advocates to unite across differences and put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agendas to ensure that children have what they need to survive and thrive. The Foundation calls on elected officials and other decision makers to:

  • Put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking by using disaggregated data and engaging community stakeholders. This should ensure that the policymaking process is informed by the diverse perspectives of those hardest hit by the crisis and created in partnership with communities. This approach should underpin any concrete policy actions.
  • Prioritize the physical and mental health of all children by guaranteeing that any vaccine will be available without cost as a factor and by retaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. To promote mental health, particularly in times of crisis, policymakers should work to reduce the student-to-school-counselor ratio in all school settings to levels recommended by mental health professionals.
  • Help families with children achieve financial stability and bolster their well-being by expanding access to unemployment insurance for part-time and gig economy workers, low-wage workers and students and by expanding child care access. Additionally, policymakers should eliminate barriers to accessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
  • Ensure schools are better funded, more equitably funded and ready to meet the needs of students disparately affected by the pandemic by boosting school funding to protect against the economic impact of the pandemic, build maintenance-of-equity requirements into relief packages and address disparities in technology access at home and in the classroom.

Kansas Action for Children urges lawmakers and officials in our state to follow the trends in child well-being not just in a pandemic, but consistently. A prime opportunity to do so is our yearly release of data about children in all 105 Kansas counties at www.kac.org/kansas_kids_count. While this information was collected before the pandemic, it offers a long-term view of how Kansas children are doing.

“Understanding the data and the very real challenges facing the state’s families shouldn’t be confined to a pandemic,” Wilson said. “We were already tracking data trends before this emergency began, and we call on state officials and those we elected to make sure Kansas kids succeed.”

The 2020 KIDS COUNT report is available Dec. 14 at www.aecf.org.

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